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This years’ “Start Where You Are” Ark Valley Pride celebration will be held in Riverside Park in Salida from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on June 5.  This year will be a scaled-back event featuring a socially distanced gathering of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies and families.

The idea of starting where you are is the inspiration for this year’s celebration. Rather than doing a traditional parade that could encourage gathering, organizers are asking those interested in participating to “start where they are”, such as  their homes or businesses, with their family members or members of their “pod” and make their way to the park to meet at 10:00 a.m. Participants are encouraged to document their pilgrimage via social media using the hashtag #arkvalleypride!

This is a rebooted pride flag by Daniel Quasar. This reboot is meant to be inclusive of queer people of color and trans people. Courtesy of Bloomington Pride’s website.

Participants are encouraged to express their creativity, to be festive and fun – decorate bikes, skateboards, or wheelchairs; wear awesome costumes, make signs and banners to express support of Pride in all its forms, essentially creating multiple mini–Pride Parades on the way to Riverside Park.

The event will have local speakers, feature a drag performance from Lady Shug, and handing out the 2021 Ark Valley Equality Network Pride Awards. There will also be local agencies on-site with important information and resources as well as an Emergency Pride Prep Zhuzhing table for all your emergency Pride prep.

Lady Shug, a Diné non-binary drag artist from the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, has been a drag artist for years. They’re known to center their culture and Indigeneity in their craft. Recently, Lady Shug gained more mainstream recognition when they appeared on HBO’s Emmy-award nominated series We’re Here, and via their Instagram account where they posts photos alongside calls to action.

Lady Shug, the a Diné non-binary drag artist featured during this year’s Pride Celebration. Image courtesy of Partnership for Community Action.

Crowned Miss New Mexico Pride in 2016, Lady Shug has spent the last decade bringing her brand of often radical and political drag to her indigenous community. Lady Shug explained her approach “This Is Me, take it or leave it, but I’m still going to be in your face even if you want to leave it!”

The performer shared with The Advocate magazine, “My pride is about giving hope for a better future and strength to my friends who are afraid to come out or be themselves,” they say. “To have family — given and or chosen — to love and accept you, to have equality in healthcare, education, government and general norms of society.”

While many adults in the community have been vaccinated, a large number of the youth are not. Participants are asked to considered wearing a mask to protect others.

Chaffee County Public Health Deputy Director, Emily Anderson explained “The lifting of the mask mandate in Chaffee County and across Colorado is welcome news to some, while anxiety-provoking for others. We have been through an incredibly challenging 15 months, and as we slowly transition back to normal, I ask that everyone is patient and kind to friends, neighbors, strangers, and business owners as we all decide what feels right to each of us within the updated regulations and guidance.”

Pride has always been bigger than a parade. It is the chance to celebrate our community’s achievements, come together against our challenges, and to unite as a community. After a year of isolation, fear, and grief, we come together to show the Upper Arkansas River Valley that our community is stronger than ever. To sponsor Ark Valley Pride and be listed on the website and annual banner click here.

To view the full Pride schedule, click here.